BOSTON — Defense attorneys for former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi and two co-defendants launched a counter offensive on the government’s star witness Thursday.
Joseph Lally, the former salesman of Cognos software, delivered dramatic and damaging testimony of how the four men schemed to funnel kickbacks to DiMasi to win his help in securing state contracts.
On Thursday the defense tried to undo the damage.
The rubble was still bouncing from the blows Lally’s testimony had inflicted on the defense as attorneys for his former co-defendants regrouped Thursday morning.
“You lied for money. Correct?” snapped attorney Marty Weinberg.
“Yeah, that would be accurate,” responded Lally, who turns out to be one been tough cookie and one great salesman.
“I believe I have a compulsion issue in many areas,” Lally responded to the suggestion he was a “degenerate gambler.”
By his own admission, lying to make money turns out to have been an equal compulsion in Lally’s life. The defense invoked a roll call of lies:
- Stealing and forging checks from a previous employer
- Hiding $275,000 of winnings at Foxwoods from the Internal Revenue Service
- Cheating business partners of thousands in earnings
- Laundering over $400,000
- Concealing from the government a $70,000 line of credit — after he was indicted
“You have admitted that you are a scheee-mer and you engaged in an artifice to de-fraaaaaud,” snarled attorney Tom Drechsler.
“That’s what we did. That’s what I’m guilty of,” Lally responded.
Lally was the textbook model of the experienced sales person who knows how to handle objections and rejections. He seemed unfazed. He was calm, undeterred and deft in offering lines and information, often poisonous, that the defense didn’t ask for and didn’t want.
When pressed on his gambling debts to a bookie, for instance, Lally said, “That was a bookmaker Mr. McDonough introduced me too.”
Co-defendant McDonough winced.
In return for his cooperation with the government, Lally gets a sentence recommendation of only two to three years in prison. The government lets him keep his house, it has returned seized money, it has dropped the charge of money laundering, helps with the IRS, and Lally doesn’t have to pay back the $2 million in sales commissions from the allegedly rigged Cognos contracts.
So why wouldn’t the super salesman lie now to close the best deal in his life, the defense asked.
“I’m in front of a jury, a judge and a court,” Lally said.
Much of Lally’s testimony has been buttressed by emails, phone logs and previous witnesses.
Streetwise defense attorney William Cintolo voiced exasperation. Hammering Lally seemed more like trying to nail jello to a wall.
“I’m tired your Honor,” Cintolo said.
A retired salesman in the courtroom said, “A good salesman would never say that.”
The defense will take another run at Lally on Friday.